Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Fly by Y York tells the story of Tonia, an artistic nine-year-old with fantastic dreams of a giant future. Tonia’s mom wants her to be like a doll, perfectly mannered and always the same size. Tonia’s dad wants her to blend into the crowd in a world where African-Americans who stand tall are easier to cut down. But Tonia longs to soar. She knows that the best part of life and creativity is found where the colors blur. She believes it is okay to billow and fly, and that is where she feels both safe and whole.
This story was first presented in 2010 as a staged reading at New Visions/New Voices – a new play symposium hosted at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. It had its full-production premiere in 2011 at Milwaukee’s First Stage Children’s Theatre.
NCT’s cast for the regional debut of this work includes Jessica Kuende, Bralyn Stokes, David Chattam, Aleta Myles and Alicia Haymer. Scenic and lighting design is by Scott Leathers. Costume design is by Patricia Taber.
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding is provided by the Ida F. Cooney Fund for the Arts and the Craig Spain Fund for the Performing Arts from The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
The production runs from Jan. 24 to Feb. 10 at NCT (25 Middleton St.) with public performances on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. (but no show on Sunday, Jan. 27). Wells will attend on Saturday, Feb. 2, and following the 2 p.m. show participate in an After-Words Q & A with the audience and discuss the play and her art, some of which will be displayed in NCT’s lobby.
In addition to the play the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission will host a gallery show of Wells’ art Jan. 21 to March 1 which is free and open to the public. Visitors to the Metro Arts Gallery (located on the fourth floor of the Metro Office Building at 800 2nd Ave S.; please bring a valid ID to check in with security) can view the exhibition Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A special artist reception with Wells will be held at Metro Arts Gallery on Friday, Feb. 1 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. that is also open to the public.
Tickets (Adults $19; Youths to age 17 and seniors age 65 and up $12; Groups of ten or more $11 per person; 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 preview performance $12 adults and seniors/$6 youths) for Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Fly can be purchased by phone at (615) 252-4675 or online at nashvillect.org. The 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 show will offer open captioning for patrons who are hard of hearing.
*Photo of Jessica Kuende by Colin Peterson courtesy Nashville Children’s Theatre.